Wyoming Hunger Initiative and Edible Prairie Project team up to eliminate food insecurity in Campbell County.
It’s a simple concept, really: provide the community with an emergency source of food that won’t cost consumers money. Around the state, individuals, organizations, programs and projects are collaborating to make this idea a reality. Last year, First Lady of Wyoming Jennie Gordon launched Wyoming Hunger Initiative (WHI) to build connections between existing organizations battling food insecurity and the local resources to assist them.
The wave of layoffs that followed the COVID-19 outbreak has caused food insecurity to become a top priority in Wyoming. Even before the coronavirus, Gordon stressed that one in six children around Wyoming do not always know where their next meal will come from. Understanding the financial effects of the pandemic, WHI introduced its COVID-19 Response.
Along with making systematic changes to accommodate those impacted by COVID-19, WHI recently collaborated with Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies to launch Food from the Field. This Program is a “Wyoming solution to hunger,” as Gordon likes to call it. Hunters around the state can now join the mission by donating game meat to local processors working with WHI who will then distribute the meat to a variety of food pantries in the area.
In Campbell County, WHI Regional Director and Cent$ible Nutritionist Beth Chapell has worked closely with cofounders of the Edible Prairie Project (EPP), Megan McManamen and Erin Galloway. The three are on a quest to provide their community with the most abundant, realistic and healthy food sources available to lower-income families.
McManamen and Galloway co-founded EPP almost two years ago, hoping to relieve Campbell County of food insecurity by broadening the spectrum of locally grown and processed food.
“We want people in Gillette to know that it’s possible to grow and produce your own food, on a larger scale,” Galloway explained to County 17 Thursday.
In collaboration with UW’s Cent$ible Nutrition Extension, EPP has successfully opened five Little Free Pantries across Campbell County. The pantries are continuously stocked with food, personal care and household items that are available to anyone at any time.
This week, EPP received a grant from WHI to build its infrastructure. Promoting and supporting the smaller food insecurity organizations throughout Wyoming is a critical piece of what WHI does, as Gordon noted. EPP applied for the grant earlier this year to expand its services and reach as many children and families as possible by providing local families and individuals with gardening tools and supplies.
On Thursday, Galloway and McManamen were putting together garden kits from what they lightly referred to as EPP’s “tiny headquarters” inside the Boys & Girls Club. Individuals who had applied for the kits earlier this year will receive plant sprouts, seeds, tomato cages, bean poles, gloves and various gardening tools.
Though these nonprofit organizations are working hard to diminish the presence of food insecurity in Wyoming, EPP’s co-founders dispel the notion that they’re just giving things away for free. Instead, they argue that theirs and other organizations are designed to build a stronger, more independent community when utilized properly.
“We try to avoid ‘feeding people’,” McManamen explained. “We’re here to assist people in becoming self-sufficient.”
EPP, WHI, and Cent$ible Nutrition share the common goal of educating and rehabilitating members of the community who regularly seek their service, she added.
No two situations resulting in food insecurity are exactly alike, McManamen further said. All families and individuals in Campbell County can utilize programs and organizations with a variety of services to find the personalized form of assistance that will work for them.
For more information on available food services in Campbell County, visit the WHI Website.